The Idol

I've got an idol.

This comes as a surprise. I thought I was done with idols. I know I used to have an idol -- her name was Shopping, and I kicked her to the curb during my year-long Shop-Not Project. And even though I'm back to shopping now, it doesn't have the allure it once did. "What a relief," I thought to myself a couple of months ago. "I'm idol-free!"
{insert happy idol-less dance here}

And...not so fast Miss Fancy Idol-less Dancing Pants.

My first inkling that a new idol had joined the party occurred back in November when I wrote this post about jealousy. The fact that I was jealous of other writers should have been a red flag, but I'm not quick like that. Instead, I got to thinking about it when one of the commenters mentioned that jealousy is usually a symptom of a deeper underlying issue.
I was not pleased to read that observation. Like being jealous isn’t bad enough – now I have to deal with the bigger problem driving the jealousy, too? Could I be more of a complete wreck?
Turns out, the thing that’s driving the jealousy is my new idol: The Writer's Life.
My dream of being a published writer and living a "real" Writer's Life is fueling my jealousy of other published writers who seem to have the life I desire. In fact, I have allowed my dream of the Writer's Life to morph into a bigger, scarier, more powerful idol than shopping ever was.
Writer's Life Idol is to Shopping Idol like Freddy Krueger is to Bowser Junior.

It hit me one day as I sat in the car in my office parking lot. Just as I was about to turn the ignition key, I was jolted by a thought: what if my Writer's Life dream, the way I have it all formulated and mapped out, isn't God's Writer's Life plan for me?
What if his plan is different from my plan?

You see, I've got it all worked out nicely, thank you very much. I will get my book published and quit my part-time job, and earn enough money to continue on as a real writer. I simply want to do what I love to do all day, every day.
Not just on Fridays.
Not just for an hour after the kids go to bed.
Not just squeezed into two hours Wednesday mornings.
Every day. Five days a week. I want writing to be my only job (besides mothering, of course). I love writing so much, I reason, don't I deserve to be able to do it more? Don't I deserve to have the career I love?

This is where God comes in.
The problem is that I don’t exactly know what God wants. Perhaps God wants me to stay at Nebraska public broadcasting. Maybe he sees a role for me there that I don't see. Maybe he wants me to write and work. Maybe he's got a publishing deal for me 10 years from now. Or maybe not at all.

Maybe the Writer's Life that I've imagined for myself isn't the Writer's Life God has designed for me.

There are a lot of options, and I really don't have any idea what his plan is for me, aside from the writing part. I'm pretty confident that writing is involved, but that's about all I know for sure. That's the tricky part about God -- he's hard to pin down and figure out.


Frankly, that kind of irritates me.

But that hard-to-figure-out nature of God is also exactly what's helped me realize that I need to let go. The more I obsess over fulfilling my publishing dream in order to attain my definition of a real Writer's Life, the more that dream takes priority in my life -- over my husband, my children, my friends and even my God.

So I have surrendered.


I'm putting the plan back into God's hands and rolling with it. Or at least I'm surrendering and rolling with it as best as I can, because I'm not a great surrenderer-roller. It's more of a bumpity humpity bangity bungling rolling right now. What this looks like in reality is that I'm still writing, obsessing a little less and telling myself over and over, "It will all work out. It will all work out. Whatever the Plan is, it will all work out."

But you know what? Even bumpity rolling feels better than not rolling at all.



"But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord's hands. I will trust God for my reward." (Isaiah 49:4).

{I just need to say here that my blogger friend, Sarah, asked her blogger friend Melanie to make this One Word graphic for me when she read my One Word post last week -- isn't that the sweetest?! Thank you, Sarah and Melanie!}

Have you ever battled a big, bad Freddy Krueger-style idol in your life?



Sharing with Ann Voskamp's Walk with Him Wednesday series, as we write about how we are embracing and practicing new habits:


And with Jennifer at Getting Down with Jesus, because that moment that I pondered all this while parked in the office lot in my mini-van? That was a God moment...

If you haven't done so already, would you kindly consider "liking" my Writer Facebook page by clicking here? Thank you! You can also  receive "Graceful" free in your email in-box or via the reader of your choice, by clicking here.

Shawn Smucker  – (January 18, 2012 at 6:02 AM)  

Great post, Michelle. Sometimes it seems impossible to differentiate between the times we are supposed to fight tooth and nail to accomplish what's on our heart and when it's time to sit back and accept where we are. I don't have any answers. Don't give up.

Kim –   – (January 18, 2012 at 6:10 AM)  

Wow! I needed to read this today. (Actually, the perfect timing would have been last night when I was struggling with my own jealousy issues in regards to writing/blogging.)  I will try to join you in letting go, even though it's totally against my very Type A nature.  I know in my head that God has it covered. I just need to truly let it go. Thanks for your honesty.

Amy @ Little Adventures –   – (January 18, 2012 at 8:28 AM)  

What an amazing Post Michelle! Thank YOU. God works every week in our hearts to place these lessons in front of our hearts. I too am letting God take the wheel of my life! Blessings!

Jennifer@GDWJ  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:32 AM)  

Oh Michelle. Our idols might be twins, separated at birth. 

I get this. And thank you for giving me a place to laugh about it. I realize this is serious stuff, the making of idols, but you write about it in such a way that I can't help but laugh out loud.  (Miss Fancy Idol-Less Dancing Pants! You're a riot!)

Jennifer@GDWJ  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:38 AM)  

P.S. -- I love that you linked this great story in community, too. 

Nancy Franson  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:42 AM)  

Yep. I know that bumpy ride. My idol? My children. And my plans for their lives. I just told a friend that I'm done dictating to God how I think their lives should work out. That's a step forward in trusting God's plan, right?

BTW--I still need to collect on a guest post from you one of these days. Maybe writing fame and fortune awaits you over at my place, writing for all eight of my readers! (Maybe you could post a video of that idol-free happy dance?)

James Duchesneau  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:47 AM)  

Idols are sneaky like that; some are huge, towering expectations of how we envision ourselves, others are sly, shadowy habits that we try not to think too hard about.

Thanks for sharing your struggle.

Patty –   – (January 18, 2012 at 8:48 AM)  

Surrender has to be, for me at least, the hardest part of this God journey we all travel.

Thank you for sharing your story.  Love your honesty, Michelle. 

Mary Bonner  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:02 AM)  

OK...this is just a bit too close to home.  I am beginning to realize that what I have really been wanting is to be SOMEBODY.  Before moving out east I WAS somebody.  I did public speaking, poeple told me how motivational and inspirational I was...here?  Not so much...let's say not at all!!  I am just beginning to come to terms - 4 years later - that things are going to be different.  HIS plan isn't my plan.  (I love Nancy's comment about her planning her kid's lives - translate that to ME planning MY life.)  I don't get to make the plan and orchestrate it - I only get to live it.  So....I am trying to trust more and orchestrate less.  I used this today from Sarah Young in Jesus Calling , Jan. 18, page 19

"Learn to trust Me when things go "wrong." Disruptions to your routine highlight your dependence on Me.  Trusting acceptance of trials brings blessings that far outweigh them all.  Walk hand in hand with Me through this day.  I have lovingly planned every inch of the way.  Trust does not falter when the path becomes rocky and steep.  Breathe deep draughts of My Presence, and hold tightly to My hand. Together we can make it!


So my friend, like you I am telling myself - it will all work out.  Thank you - again - for your transparency.

Linda Chontos –   – (January 18, 2012 at 9:03 AM)  

I understand; I'm right there with you. I have surrendered, picked up, surrendered, picked up.....well you know. I wonder if it is "self" that has become the idol for me - wanting to do His will just as long as it fits my plan.
Whatever He has planned for you Michelle - He has gifted you with the ability to use words well. I know He's going to use that.

Mary Bonner  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:03 AM)  

Girl...you are SO right about letting go of the kid's lives.  Yes!  That is a step forward.  Are you sure he doesn't need our help?  JUST KIDDING!!!

joan taylor –   – (January 18, 2012 at 9:08 AM)  

I remember your post on the Green Eyed Monster, is that the one?  I  am well acquainted with the Writer's Life journey too.  When I surrendered to the His process I knew that He would use all of my gifts for my good and for His glory.  He doesn't waste a thing.  And in that surrendered place I have found comfort.  When the Green Eyed Monster raises his ugly head, I say God will finish what He has started in me, His way and in His timing....

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:11 AM)  

James! What a delight to see you here -- my work life, writing life and spiritual life colliding once again - I love when that happens!  And you are so right - idols ARE sneaky. Just when I think I am done with them forever, another one pops up.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by here and leave a comment. See ya at the office!

Betty Jo Martin  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:12 AM)  

Michelle this is a terrific, thought provoking post. It brought to mind a scripture Prov 3:5-6  . . . he shall direct they paths

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:13 AM)  

I think you've got the makings of a blog post of your own here, Mary!

I just bought Jesus Calling this week -- it's sitting right here...although I haven't started it yet. Love that quote from it -- thanks so much for sharing it here. Love you and miss you, lady!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:15 AM)  

I think you are very insightful and wise to see that you are making an idol of your kids' lives (I can see that in my future, too, as my kids get older!). You have taken a big first step in recognizing that. I don't many of us are ever totally done with dictating to God -- it's kind of human nature, I think. But it's important to recognize that we do it, and to take steps to stop controlling and start trusting.

I'll take you up on that guest post for sure...life is a little crazy around here right now though, so I may have to postpone it for a bit - maybe in March, if that might be okay?

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:19 AM)  

You know, Shawn, your comment on that jealousy post was one of the ones that really got me thinking about this issue of jealousy and idols. Then I read a chapter in "Gospel in Life" by Timothy Keller about idols, and it all clicked. So thank you so much for your insights and for helping me make some progress in overcoming this mean beast of an idol.

I think you are right, too -- it IS so hard to discern when God wants us to persevere and push through obstacles and when He wants us to hand it all over in trust. In this particular instance, though, it was pretty clear to me, all of a sudden, that I had made this dream of the writing life into a big fat monster of an idol, and it was beginning to affect my relationships and my joy.

Nancy Franson  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:22 AM)  

March is the bane of my existence. I'll probably really need you then!

DRupert –   – (January 18, 2012 at 9:27 AM)  

Jealousy and envy are twins. And they are both idols. We see them rising in our culture, as we talk about the haves and have nots. It's going to get worse as time goes one. I just want to be satisfied.

cherylsmith  – (January 18, 2012 at 9:33 AM)  

Read every word and the link, listened to the song too! Weak and wounded sinner? Yep. I know her all too well. Needing to come to Jesus myself this morning. Thank you friend. (Agreeing with Jennifer- you make me laugh too.)

Kelli  – (January 18, 2012 at 10:01 AM)  

Michelle, found you through Ann's blog. Your words challenged me and motivated me. Thank you. And...If God does see fit to have you published...I would pre-order. Praying for you right now, new friend. Blessings.

JosephPote –   – (January 18, 2012 at 10:16 AM)  

Michelle, once again, you overwhelm me with your transparency, and I absolutely love that about you!

Idols come in all shapes and sizes, for all of us.  I think the hardest part is pursuing that god-given vision that He has placed in our hearts, while not letting the vision itself (or our view of how the vision is to be fuliflled) become an idol.

I battle these sorts of issues daily!

BUT, I have good news for you!

You can stop stressing about achieving the Writer's Life...because you are already there! 

It's really not about finding a publisher to pick up a contract on your manuscript.  The Writer's Life is about writing for an audience who understands, appreciates, and benefits from what you've written.

I have no idea what all God has in store for you, but you, my friend, are already a successful writer...and a very good one, at that!

Shelly Miller  – (January 18, 2012 at 10:19 AM)  

Oh my goodness, I just love your honesty, transperancy and this made me laugh out loud. I suppose you know you are on your way to fulfillment when you give all the play doh away and let him make something beautiful out of it. No tweaks or I would've done it differently, just simple acceptance for the gift. And I can't believe you only have those few hours to blog, you are amazing!

Jerri Miller –   – (January 18, 2012 at 11:08 AM)  

This was very interesting to me ... I'm afraid I might have an idol of the Writer's Life, too!

Sara  – (January 18, 2012 at 11:22 AM)  

Aaargh!  You just read the desires and struggles of my heart and put them down for all to see!! :-)  I have always dreamed of being a writer but the time never seemed to be write.  So, I became a teacher, and then went to seminary, and then taught again and now I am pursuing (kind of) a writing career.  But, does God want that?  Is it the desire of his heart?  If it's not, can I be okay with that?  How will things work out?  What's going to happen next?  And I am SO jealous of other wonderful writers living out their dreams!! :-)  Thank you for being so brave to put this down and showing me that I am not alone!

Tracy –   – (January 18, 2012 at 11:32 AM)  

Sounds like you're on the right path. Realizing where you stand and what you're up against regarding being IN God's will right now. I've heard that God is more interested in the kind of people we are, than in what we can do for him. If we honor him and put obeying him first...he will give us what he wants us to have in his time like that verse. Pro. 3:5-6 & Ps.37:4-5

WendyPaineMiller –   – (January 18, 2012 at 1:40 PM)  

I'm not a great surrenderer-roller either. I'm more of bouncy wouncy flouncy bumper. And yes, God's will can get tricky, but I'm learning like you, it's in the letting go. It's all in there. Like Prego or Ragu or whatever pasta sauce commercial that is.
(Dear friend alerted me to download Google Chrome so I can comment again on my fav. blogs.)
~ Wendy

Jean Wise  – (January 18, 2012 at 1:45 PM)  

Know what? As i read this post, I am thinking"I wish I could write like Michelle."  Talk about jealously!  LOL

I keep putting my writing dreams back on God's altar and try to listen to His guiding.  I really believe that if a dream keep tumbling in our heart over and over again, God planted it there.

I have many idols.  heard once Ignatius called them Disordered Attachments. Nothing wrong with having attachments, dreams, husband, children etc, There are disordered since God should be first. That has helped me gain new perspective. my ordered attachments.

by the way I think it is cool you work for Nebraska public broadcasting.  Wow just think of all the neat things you learn there, she says with her 'green' eyes flashing...

Diana Trautwein –   – (January 18, 2012 at 2:26 PM)  

Can I just quietly say something here, very carefully? This writing here today? And earlier this week? This is the vey best writing yet. You are always a skilled writer, Michelle. But this week? You are a delightfully real writer, choosing words that make people both wince and laugh - how great is that?? I TOTALLY get this idol bit - and the sticky fingers bit, too. I wrestle with it, just like all the rest of your readers. And you brought it to real, thumping, breathing life with these words. Yes,  you did. You may not have exactly the 'life' that you've dreamed of. BUT you, Michelle DeRusha, YOU are a writer. That's all. xoxoxo

Sandra Heska King  – (January 18, 2012 at 3:57 PM)  

Oh, man. You stole my idol. 

And could I please make enough money to travel and write about it?

Lisa notes  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:02 PM)  

"Even bumpity rolling feels better than not rolling at all."Amen!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:43 PM)  

Yup, I totally get that, Kim - I'm Type A, too (in fact, my husband jokingly calls me Triple Type A -- I guess I've got a bad case!).

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:44 PM)  

Blessings to you, too, Amy - thank you so much for stopping by.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:44 PM)  

I kind of made myself laugh with the Fancy Dancing Pants, too - is it lame that I crack myself up?!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:45 PM)  

You are so right...and I am so not good at surrendering.

Thanks for stopping by, Patty.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:46 PM)  

It is kind of a cycle, isn't it? Thank God for grace, that's all I have to say. I think God must roll his eyes at me every now then when I fall into the same routine, again and again and again.

And thank you, too, for your kind, kind words.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:47 PM)  

Joan, I know you've written about this topic of surrender at your place and I have learned a lot from you as you travel your journey. Thank you for that! And yes, you are right -- the Green-Eyed Monster post, that's the one!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:48 PM)  

I think I may have to fix that Proverb straight to my forward -- thank you for pointing that one out to me!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 4:49 PM)  

Satisfaction is a wonderful place to be -- others call it contentment. My husband is very much that way -- contented. Me? Not so much.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:23 PM)  

Wow, Cheryl, you did the whole "tour" -- thanks for taking the time to read the posts and listen to the music.

And I hope you are continuing to recover and feel well and that your family is still taking good care of you!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:24 PM)  

It's so nice to meet you, Kelli - thanks for stopping by here from Ann's place and leaving such a thoughtful, gracious comment.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:25 PM)  

Joe, as always you are too kind. I appreciate your encouragement and support -- and your distinction between following our God-given vision and letting it get the better of us. It's a fine line to walk sometimes I think.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:26 PM)  

I forgot to mention that I typically write on Sunday mornings after church, too!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:26 PM)  

Maybe we can form a little club together, Jerri!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:28 PM)  

You are most definitely not alone, Sara. I think it's a common curse for writers to feel that bitter bite of envy. Even Anne Lamotte has written about it (and in my opinion, she shouldn't be jealous of anyone!).

Diana  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:28 PM)  

Michelle,
Yes! "quit my...job, and earn enough money to continue on as a real writer. I simply want to do what I love to do all day, every day!" I can relate to that...to your frustration of knowing God wants you to write but not sure of the exact plan.

I used to be a relentless FranlkinCovey planner user. I had all areas of my life planned out but then when it didn't pan out I sought Him and now I don't use the planner any more. I guess my idol was control...playing God of my life. Underlying issue? Trust. Afraid to trust Him with my life. I have not used the planner for more than 6 months now but I have been thinking of it lately. Temptation. But without it I am moving forward. I think not as "organized" as before but truth is I am moving forward MORE than before. How does He do that?

Thanks for letting us see into your world.
Diana

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:29 PM)  

I keep coming  back to that verse and hearing it reflected back to me: in His time. Definitely part of the message God wants me to hear today. Thanks for reiterating that for me, Tracy!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:29 PM)  

Your comment about the spagetti sauce made me laugh, Wendy. You  are too cute.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:34 PM)  

I love how you put that, Jean: that if a dream keeps tumbling into our hearts that God put it there. And I like that definition of idols, too -- disordered attachments. That makes a lot of sense to me.

And thanks, too, for some much-need perspective on my day job. I do love working for PBS/NPR here in Nebraska -- I think sometimes I just get disenchanted (or maybe just plain spoiled) because I've been there for 10 years - I forget how lucky I am. But it IS a great place to work, and my schedule is super flexible, which is wonderful, and I am surrounded by smart people who challenge me and make me think. Nothing wrong with that!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:35 PM)  

Oh my word, Diana -- can I just say, you know how to lift up a person! I am just smiling silly here by myself with my laptop in bed. You are sweet, sweet, sweet.

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:36 PM)  

Oh yeah, travel writing would be good, too -- let me add to the picture of an ideal writer's life, please!

Michelle DeRusha  – (January 18, 2012 at 8:36 PM)  

Are you with me on the bumpity path, my friend? :)

Janmacy –   – (January 18, 2012 at 8:38 PM)  

Life would be dull if everyone wrote alike.  Different authors/writers give us more insight than one single writer.  We all come from a different point in our lives; a different time in our lives.  We all have a different perspective due to our past experiences.   

I've been following you.  I think you write beautifully.  

But we all need to be still and listen to His still small voice.  His plan is perfect.  

Keep on keeping on

Sondra  – (January 19, 2012 at 3:15 PM)  

I appreciate your openness with your writing. Idols can be so sneaky, and I find that the line between proper management and joy of using your gifts and worshipping those gifts can be blurred and quickly crossed!

Deb  – (January 19, 2012 at 3:19 PM)  

It is an honour really , that you think out loud for us to learn along with you Michelle. 
This life stuff sure is complicated sometimes. 

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